Four members of the California-based Rise Above Movement were arrested on conspiracy charges related to the Charlottesville rallies in August 2017. Cole Evan White, 24, Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, Michael Miselis, 29, and Thomas Walter Gillen, 34, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal riots statute and one count of violating the federal riots statute. Here is what you need to know about RAM and the federal charges.
1. The Four Men Arrested Were Among the ‘Most Violent Individuals’ at the Rallies, According to the Complaint
The four men who were arrested — Cole White, Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis, and Thomas Gillen — were identified as marchers either on August 11, during the torch rally, or during the rally the next day when Heather Heyer was killed. On August 11, 2017, a group of people marched through the University of Virginia carrying Tiki torches and shouting phrases like “Blood and Soil!” (a Nazi slogan) and “Jews will not replace us!” A group of student activists was attacked by some of the people from that group, Huffington Post reported.
The complaint states that the four arrested were among the most violent at the rallies:
Among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017 were at least four members and associates of the Rise Above Movement, a militant white-supremacist organization based in Southern California, who had traveled to Charlottesville with the intent to encourage, promote, incite, participate in, and commit violent acts in furtherance of a riot…”
You can read the federal complaint filed against the four men below.
The complaint states that on August 11, the night before Heather Heyer’s tragic death, hundreds of people with the Unite the Right rally marched through part of the University of Virginia’s campus, carrying torches and shouting phrases like “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!” The march stopped at a Thomas Jefferson statue at the Rotunda. Once there, the marchers surrounded a smaller group of students who were there to counterprotest and were holding banners such as “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.” According to the complaint, the torch-lit protesters moved in closer and “moments later, violence erupted among the hundreds of people present.” The next day, violent encounters occurred multiple times between the protestors and counterprotesters.
The federal complaint said that the four men who were arrested had also engaged in violence at political rallies in Huntington Beach in March 2017, Berkeley in April 2017, and other locations. The complaint shows photos and screenshots of violent altercations, including the one below. The federal complaint reads: “A screenshot from the footage below shows GILLEN, DALEY, WHITE, and MISELIS, acting in concert with each other as they continue to engage in acts of violence towards counter protestors.”
The complaint also states that at one point, Miselis and Daley threw water bottles onto a crowd of counter-protestors and Daley stood and made a “throat-slashing gesture” to the crowd. The complaint provided the following screenshot:
The complaint also shares photos of Gillen “repeatedly punching a counter protestor who has fallen to the ground.”
In the federal complaint, White is described as being at the UTR rally and can be seen in screenshots of the riots wearing a purple sweater with “flowing platinum blonde hair… later attacking a counter protestor.” You can see the screenshot from the complaint below:
The complaint goes on to state that White can be seen using a tiki torch as a weapon on at least two occasions. It says that in another incident, White can be seen grabbing a non-violent counter protestor who was just holding a street sign and “jerking him away… Afterwards, White head-butted a clergyman…”
2. The Rise Above Movement is a California-Based Group with about 50 Members
The Rise Above Movement is a small but violent group composed of about 50 people in southern California. The group has expressed hatred for Muslims, Jews, and immigrants, ProPublica and Frontline have reported. They were one of the groups involved in the Unite the Right rally in August 2017.
The Unite the Right rally was the largest public gathering of white supremacists in a generation, ProPublica reported. It ended up involving about two dozen people battling counterprotesters in the streets of Virginia. Although some people joined the march to simply advocate for free speech, many of the participants were chanting racist slogans and embracing symbols that spoke to the days of Nazi Germany.
The complaint noted that according to the Rise Above Movement’s Twitter page, RAM seeks to “revive this (pioneering) spirit… Modern society fosters weak men, addicts, and apathy. We want to rise above all of today’s destructive culture and see the rebirth of our people, strong in mental and physical capacities as our forefathers were.”
The federal complaint later states: “RAM and their associates, in contrast to their purpose referenced previously, openly espouse animosity, anti-Semitism, and violence towards those who hold opposite ideologies to their own, as evidenced by posts to their Twitter page.”
3. RAM Has Called Itself a ‘Premier MMA Club of the Alt-Right’
The Rise Above Movement refers to itself as the ‘Premier MMA Club of the Alt-Right,” Guardian reported. The group was originally called DIY Division, the federal complaint noted, and later rebranded itself as the Rise Above Movement. In April 2017, the New York Post wrote that DIY was a “neo-Nazi fight club.”
According to an in-depth report by ProPublica, the Rise Above Movement (RAM) members spend a lot of time training in boxing or the martial arts and have been known to boast about violent protests. The group tried to disrupt a Committee for Racial Justice meeting in Santa Monica, and members have been known to “infiltrate protests and disrupt proceedings by fighting” with people who don’t have the same ideology, the Guardian noted. They typically wear skull masks or goggles to hide their identity. However, some of the people at the Charlottesville rallies were not wearing disguises.
A post by the Rise Above Movement on Gab showed free outdoor gyms in the Ukraine and a claim that they were being “set up.” They wrote: “This gym was set up as one of many free outdoor gyms in Ukraine to forge a healthier youth, meanwhile in the US , we set up free syringe needle exchanges and constantly take steps to decriminalize drug abuse. Makes you think what their setting us up for.” [sic] Some of the responses to the post include racial profanity and slurs.
Eight months ago, the account posted: “It’s strange how everyone says the media is all ran by (them) and is our enemy , but then altrighters are so eager to go and invite them into there home and give the full access to destroy them. Essential making ((them)) millions of dollars while you get nothing but being made too look like a sack of **** for 15 minutes on camera. Main stream media is not your friend!”
According to the federal complaint, RAM and its members “openly identify themselves as alt-right and nationalist and frequently post videos and photographs of its adherents engaged in vigorous physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques in order to prepare to engage in fighting and violence at political rallies.”
4. Most of the Rise Above Movement’s Social Media Accounts Were Taken Down, But They Still Have Active Accounts on Gab & YouTube
Although most of the Rise Above Movement’s social media accounts have been removed, they still have an active account on Gab (a social media alternative site.) Here is one of their recent posts:
They also have an active YouTube account with more than 2,000 subscribers. They posted the following video two months ago about Mike Miselis, one of the four men who was arrested today.
5. The Rise Above Movement Is Currently Selling Clothing Merchandise on a Site Called RightBrandClothing.com
They’re currently selling T-shirts at the site RightBrandClothing.com, according to their Gab account. The site reads: “We are a nationalist apparel company committed to bringing you the highest quality goods, Our products are designed for both casual and active lifestyles. For our people, Made by our people!”
The About Us page explains: “The Right Brand was founded by a mix of frontline patriots from all over America that wanted to take part in creating a counter culture to the Marxist and degenerate ideals that are constantly being forced upon us from big corporate, Hollywood, media and liberal campuses. Modeling after successful European patriotic and nationalist movements,we created a collection of apparel and accessories based on these concepts. All of the founders are young activists that have been at some of the biggest events in the country, have personaly been on front page for their boldness and stood against the waves of the left.” [sic]